These Tools, Techniques, and Technologies are Changing the Customer Experience Landscape
Put AR, VR, AI, and immersive video to work for you now.
Imagine wondering when the boots you ordered would be delivered — and getting an immediate answer without signing in, searching through emails, or clicking through on your latest tracking link. Or imagine walking through a store, picking up a pair of shoes, checking out the finish, then putting them down before walking over to another display — all without leaving your living room.
All of this is not only possible but it’s happening right now, as brands and retailers race to gain first-mover status — because, now more than ever, those early adopters can reap substantial rewards.
Several sessions in the Marketing Innovations track at Summit drilled down on these latest and greatest tools, techniques, and technologies changing the customer experience landscape.
Navigating the new 360 experiences
Video is powerful and quickly overtaking the digital landscape. The average adult spends nearly six hours per day consuming digital video content.
That is just the beginning, though. In her presentation “Augmented Reality and the Future of Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know.” futurist Cathy Hackl talked next-generation video — specifically volumetric video.
Unlike traditional video, volumetric video has dimension. It captures moving images of people and objects in the real world that can be later viewed from any angle at any moment in time. Mainstream applications of volumetric video are becoming more of a possibility. “There are cameras coming to the market that do volumetric capture,” Cathy said. These cameras, she noted, film in 360 and create “actual volume” in finished video content.
With volumetric video integrated, people will be able to put on virtual reality (VR) headsets and engage with scenes, stores, and other environments as if they were there. “That,” Cathy said, “is what I call the shift from storytelling — from being a passive recipient of stories — to story living, where you have agency.”
Kiss for a personalized experience
AR, Cathy said, is here and already impacting customer experiences. Sephora’s Virtual Artist — an AR tool that lets customers virtually try on makeup — was central to The Biggest Marketing Trends for 2019 session. Users can kiss to change lipstick colors, scrolling until they find the shades they like best. From there, they can head to the in-store Beauty Studio to see their choices live — again, blurring the distinction between the physical and digital shopping experience.
“Technology is changing consumers’ expectations in many, many ways,” CNN Business senior writer Rachel Metz said during the trends-centric session. New technology, she added, “is making it more convenient than ever to buy things or to feel more confident with what we want before we make a purchase.”
Despite being a clear value-add for customers, these tools also heighten expectations, which can be challenging for brands. Consumers know they’re leaving a data trail, she said, and they now expect brands to create data-driven experiences that exceed their expectations.
“Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are also raising consumers’ expectations about what shopping should be like,” Rachel said. Some brands, she added, are responding. Amazon Go Stores, for example, use AI and innovative camera technology to keep tabs on who’s who and who’s buying what, enabling quick, cashier-less checkout so customers can be in and out in less time.
Talk to buy, to track, to talk, and more
It’s not just video, camera, and other visual technology driving innovation forward. Camille Mixter, product lead for voice at Macy’s, says the organization has gone all in on voice. In her panel session, “These Emerging Technologies Will Impact Your Business Most in 2019.” Camille said that voice is “a powerful channel for retailers and marketers to build stronger relationships with their customers. Voice is a fast, seamless way to do a lot of things.”
According to a new study by Adobe Analytics, 91% of 401 business decision-makers surveyed said they already are making significant investments in voice, and 94% said they plan to increase their investments in the next year.
However, brands need to branch out beyond just ordering basics. Features like voice-powered orders, status checks, chatting with brand associates, and paying bills with a few choice words are, from Camille’s perspective, inspiring new and existing customers and driving incremental engagement.
“One of the first things we learned is that customers are really excited we’re doing this,” Camille said. Many customers are used to using voice via Alexa and Siri but those are fairly basic functions comparatively — and when they see Macy’s voice-powered capabilities, they’re eager to dig in even more. Deliver, and you’ll take your customer relationships to the next level.
“[Voice] sets you apart in users’ minds,” Camille said, “and these are customers who are making a choice to talk to your brand at home, on their smartphones.” For Macy’s, the payoff has been meaningful and shows mutual value. Customers using this technology show higher satisfaction and higher engagement.
The new experience leader
Enabling all of these innovations is a new point person: the CIO. In “The Changing Role of the CIO at the Intersection of IT and Marketing,” Adobe CIO Cindy Stoddard, Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson, and Intuit CIO Atticus Tysen discussed the CIO’s need to understand customers and apply emerging technology.
“We, as CIOs, are experts in the businesses we serve,” Andrew said. “We actually have to understand more about the business than anyone so that we can insert the technology in clever, meaningful, sticky, secure, and scalable ways when it’s ready.” That, through the lens of modern customer experience management (CXM), could be anything from integrating AR, VR, and voice to simply understanding ways to better extend systems and solutions that already exist.
It takes a high level of empathy, though, as it relates to customer experiences — like putting yourself in their shoes and understanding their goals on the deepest possible level, then advocating for technology that helps them get there, friction-free. Do this, and you’ll deliver meaningful value — and that will help drive your brand forward, even as technology continues to evolve and expand.
Coming out of Summit and the Marketing Innovations track, it’s clear CXM is critical to customer satisfaction and mutual success. That said, identifying, integrating, and activating technology isn’t about finding the newest, shiniest solutions or rushing to be an early adopter just to gain an edge. Instead, true innovation — innovation that drives positive, actionable customer experiences — means staying ahead of the curve and applying technology that matters to your vision, your business, and your customers.
Do that, and you’ll be using innovative technology as a true differentiator. You’ll also be better able to find and activate solutions that facilitate simple, seamless, and satisfying customer journeys that surprise, delight, and deliver. And no matter how innovative or how exciting technology gets, that’s always the goal.